GRAFTON—After many years of practicing, after months, days and hours working to hone her craft, one local athlete showed what she was made of at the Junior Olympics.
Twirler Natalea Mumaw made her way to the 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games, held in Greensboro NC. The event, which brought over 16,000 athletes from over 30 different sports together, took place from July 27 through August 2.
Natalea took the stage on Wednesday showing off her One-Baton Solo, Two-Baton Solo and X-Strut skills in the hopes of making it past qualifiers and onto the finals. She also competed in Three-Baton Solo, Multiple Baton Show Routine and All Around Title.
At the end of day one, Natalea was hopeful, as she earned many medals for her performances.
“I got a silver medal in multiple baton. This is a routine similar to what you would see during a half-time performance,” Natalea revealed.
The performance is set to march music and incorporates up to three batons in it. Natalea reported that the judges critique how a twirler picks up and incorporates the different number of batons in the routine.
What made the silver a little sweeter is that the talented twirler came up with the routine on a whim.
“We honestly forgot about the event, so on Sunday, in the hotel parking lot, I came up with the routine,” she disclosed. “I sent a video to my twirling coach, Whitney, and we went with it.”
Natalea expressed that she was beyond excited to earn a silver for the performance.
“I was up against girls who have been feature twirlers for their school for a year or so and had obviously had their routines planned and practiced for more than just four days,” Natalea commented.
In addition, during the qualifying rounds Natalea also earned a fourth-place finish in Three-Baton and a fifth-place in All Around.
“A fourth-place Three-Baton is crazy to me,” the twirler shared. “I like multiple baton. I love how challenging it is. A fifth-place in All Around is good for me, too.”
With strong performances on Wednesday, it should come as no surprise that Natalea would make her way to the finals on Thursday, in all three events.
“My mom, dad, sister and I walked back to the result room together, and I’m not sure what my reaction was, but my dad’s, it was priceless,” Natalea said. “I’ll never forget that big pat on my back and the biggest ‘way to go,’ ever!”
The competition narrowed on Thursday, as 55 twirlers vied for the gold in their respected events. Led in by the national anthem, the athletes made their way to the judging area.
The day started off with X-Strut and One-Baton Solo performances, and Natalea did not disappoint.
“She performed a one-drop solo, that besides the one drop, was as close to perfect as you could get,” shared Natalea’s mom, Lynsey Mumaw. “She followed that up with a no-drop routine in Two- Baton, and her X-Strut looked amazing, as well.”
She went to on say that watching Natalea perform was nothing less than amazing.
“To hear the applause when she left the floor made me smile, because she earned every bit of it,” L. Mumaw expressed.
Following the completion of the judged routines, medals were laid out and hopeful twirlers gathered to hear their names called.
Natalea’s first award was a fifth-place in X-Strut. She then earned a silver medal for her Two-Baton routine, but that wouldn’t be the highlight of her day.
After a stellar performance in One-Baton Solo, Natalea was awarded a gold medal.
“I was shocked. I heard my name announced but wasn’t sure if I really heard it. At first, I thought I was daydreaming,” Natalea shared. “My mom put her arm around me and said, ‘Oh my God, you did it! Go get your gold!’ I was shaking so bad during the walk to the stage that I wanted to pass out!”
She expressed that she had an awesome experience with the Junior Olympics and learned a great deal from the judges’ clinic she attended, as well as all the other athletes from the different sports.
Natalea’s coaches both shared that they were proud of her performances during the event.
“Natalea has worked so hard this year. She’s put in so many hours at the gym, and her hard work is paying off,” said Twirling Coach Whitney Godwin. “I could not be prouder of her for working hard and winning so many medals at the AAU Junior Olympics; especially the gold in solo. She’s truly earned it.”
Coach Caitlin Blair, of Rising Starz Studio, also praised Natalea’s dedication to the sport.
“I am so proud of all of her hard work and dedication,” she said. “She is a great role model for not only our students but for everyone in the community.”
Although the Junior Olympics might be over, a twirler’s season is never done. Natalea says that she will continue to train with both of her coaches as she prepares to move up to the next level.
“Right now, I am waiting to see if I will move up to Advanced, which is the highest level you can reach, or if I still need one more solo win to get there,” she revealed.
In addition to training, Natalea will begin working on routines for the 2020 WV State twirling contest that will be held in November. She will also be taking the field on Friday nights as a feature twirler for St. Mary’s.
“I am going to still come home and help teach baton at Rising Starz Studio again this year, and I am the Junior Miss Queen of the Valley District Fair, so I will also be busy with appearances for that title,” she noted.
Natalea expressed that she would like to thank her parents for the opportunity they provide for her to twirl. Her goal is to one day earn scholarships to help with school, to take the field at her chosen University as a twirler.
“They give me every opportunity I need to do so, even if it is not ideal,” she commented.
“To my family, my studio family and my friends, I am blessed to have you as my biggest fans. To my coaches, thanks for believing in me, teaching me and giving me the skills to be at the top. These are the gifts I’ll cherish forever,” Natalea added. “To the Mountain Statesman, as always thanks for supporting the youth of our great community. You give each of us something to look forward to when we do good. Thank you to the community of Taylor County. I am proud to represent you. Finally, I thank God. Without him, none of this would be possible. He blesses me so much. He gives me strength and faith to do all that I do!”